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Memories of Brian Joyce


Jim Tucker, head of journalism, Whitireia; former executive director, NZJTO
I don't remember the first time I met Brian, but it was certainly through journalism education. I suspect it was some time in the early 90s when a bunch of us set up the NZ Journalism Education Association, which had its inaugural meeting at Auckland Technical Institute in 1992. Brian would have been there, for sure.

I've never known a time since when Brian was not involved in journalism teaching and giving a voice to journalism education. Usually, we'd meet up at the annual JEANZ conferences. We got involved in writing the first set of journalism training unit standards in the mid-90s, guidelines that have formed the basis of journalism education ever since.

During his many years representing tutors on the JTO, Brian was a valued contributor to the debates the organisation had on what should be taught and how best to teach it. More recently (2005-6), he was closely involved in the JTO's complete revamp of the standards.

My more recent memories of Brian are from journalism advisory committee meetings at Whitireia, where he taught journalism for most of this century. By then, he was the country's most experienced journalism teacher, predating even dinosaurs like me, Jim Tully and Susan Boyd-Bell.
Brian always had a wise view on things and could be relied on to bring discussion back to earth. His anecdotes were legendary, and by the time he and Bernie Griffin got going, the meetings would run well over time and there would never be more than a couple of minutes left for the JTO to get its oar in. That may or may not have been a deliberate tactic.

He'd tried just about every approach to teaching the craft, but never poured cold water on news ideas or proposals for improvement. So he was a logical choice to head up a group to review the lower level unit standards in 2006 and 2007. Sadly, his illness intervened with that work, but his input was still greatly valued.

The last time I saw Brian was a couple of weeks ago at the farewell for Terry Brown, Radio NZ's Editorial Policy Manager. They had been flatmates together in Dunedin in the 60s. Brian was his usual cheerful, friendly self, telling a story about Terry's appalling cooking (something about a meal that involved stuffing something with rice - which Terry forgot to cook).

He said to us: "Well, the bloody doctors said last year I would probably be dead in a few months, but what would they know", or words to that effect. It was Brian all over - defiant about the vicissitudes of life, and determined to enjoy it to the end. He did the same with his journalism - he was passionate about it and he was passionate about teaching it.

Like me, Brian had a gruff manner at times (and like me, it occasionally got him into trouble), but students knew he was there for them. I recall a recent class at Whitireia when a student was seriously injured in an accident. Brian stumped up to the hospital with learning material to make sure she could keep up. Today, she's a very successful journalist.
Passing on his knowledge and experience to new generations was Brian Joyce's greatest and most lasting achievement. He leaves a wide legacy.

Charles Riddle, head of journalism, Waikato Institute of Technology (WINTEC):
The thing that impressed me most during the time Brian taught here in the 90s was his clear understanding of the challenges facing journalists. He was a resolved defender of independent and  clear thought and regularly challenged anyone - managers, fellow tutors, secretaries and, of course, students - in their thinking, demanding in a very smiling and positive, but forceful, way that they defend their points of view.

He was a man of ideas and constantly moving forward. Given he started in journalism many years ago, he may have been forgiven if he had fallen back on his work experiences in his teaching. But he also had a clear understanding of the direction journalism was taking.   

Brian wrote the first Internet Literacy and Web Media degree papers for us back in the 90s. They were so advanced in their thinking they had little uptake from that generation of students (who could not see their relevance to their careers) and the papers were shelved. However, these same papers have subsequently been taken out of storage in the last two years, dusted off, and reintroduced in to the degree, where they are now proving very popular.

Brian was quietly proud of his role in the anti-Springbok protests. He was particularly proud of the fact he was the man who set off the fire alarm in a Nelson hotel, forcing the evacuation of the Springbok team as they were about to sit down at some official dinner.

He was honoured for his work in journalism teaching  by Jeanz at last year’s conference.

Brian was an excellent cook but also had an interest in home brewed wines. Although he was happy to resort to wine kits, his best work was in a particularly fine line of fruit wines. His feijoa wines brewed in his Wellington St, Hamilton home in the 90s were a particular success,  especially amongst the National Diploma in Journalism students he hosted one evening.

Unfortunately for Brian one enterprising trainee journo ferreted out his cellar and the feijoa wine in particular led to a memorable evening. Having said that, by common agreement, his loquat chardonnay was an absolute shocker.

Jim Tully, head of school of political science and communication, University of Canterbury.
I met Brian in the mid-1970s when we were presidents of the NZJU and the NJU and we shared a strong desire to see the two unions working more closely together. The personalities of the two union secretaries were such that a spirit of co-operation had not developed. I enjoyed Brian’s straightforward, down-to-earth manner and amiable approach. The relationship between the two unions greatly improved. One quality comes to mind when I think of Brian – common sense.

Kim Griggs, freelance journalist.
I remember his Polytech class of 1983 helped name his daughter Sian. Brian was going to be late for class because Sian had been born. We knew he and June had had a girl, so set about filling in time by writing up girls' names on the board for him.
I know we included Sian (it was the name of my best friend from school so I think, but am not sure now with the passage of time, that it was my suggestion!).
Not sure if our suggestions helped or whether they just confirmed Brian and June's selection, but the class of 1983 are confident they left their mark on Brian's life!

Whitireia staff: Joanna Tennant and Paul Bowden
I knew Brian as a kind, humorous and courageous colleague. Brian was a long-time union activist. In the late 70s he was National President of the NZ Journalists Union, and worked as chief subeditor on the Nelson Evening Mail.  At Whitireia he was always an active member of ASTE, and also became chairperson and served as a member of the contract negotiating team.

Brian also wrote a number of books - the only one I am familiar with has been a faithful standby for me for over 20 years - "The Home Fix-it Book for New Zealanders", published by Reed in 1982.  Two previous publications are also listed in it - "Veteran Years of New Zealand Motoring" and "The Mobil New Zealand Camping and Caravanning Guide". 

Ken Munro, group leader, Te Pokapu Hiranga, Student Support Services, Whitireia Community Polytechnic. 
I did not know Brian well.  We crossed paths, often in the vicinity of food, often with a newspaper each. So, as you do, we did that older and media-savvy guy thing of reading between the lines even when there was nothing really there.  

I think we both had an interest in good writing…old-style…and got too easily incensed by lazy regurgitated press releases or tabloid word bites.  I think we would have both agreed that a dozen posturing teens on a field in Flaxmere was a long way from what the riot act was meant to be read for. 

Brian, in my view, had a strong sense of natural justice and natural responsibility: that we should leave our community at least a bit better than we found it and it was fitting to see him across the room at the odd Green event I have attended. 

I think what comes to mind for me are the words of  Rabbi Tarphon sometime in the first century  “ You are not expected to complete the whole task in your lifetime: but that is no excuse for not committing to getting on with it.” Brian got on with it.  Doing what he was talented at as well as he could.

Queenie Rikihana, journalism tutor – Whitireia Community Journalism school
“Where the bloody hell are ya!”
In one of his last sessions with his National certificate class Brian– couldn’t find his students as the class room allocation had been changed overnight. Brian – giggled- stayed put and sent out the text.

Educational excellence was a mantra with him and he was proud talking about the “Doctor in his home” – wife Rose – and I know he liked wearing his Masters orange hood at our graduation ceremonies. I liked it – he gave the Whitireia Diploma Journalism course class.

Always to the forefront was his politics – a leftie with liberal leanings – he would have a socialist answer to life’s woes. ‘Out, out dam capitalism’ he would rasp with glee. I joined Aste after talking to him.

His illness came suddenly. One week he was wearing lycra and biking to work. He felt good and was getting ready for his double hip operation. I was to fill in for him while he had the operation and rested.
His recovery seemed remarkable, fast even. He came back early then just as suddenly we got the news he was very ill and tests later proved he needed treatment for bowel cancer. I’ll not dwell on his illness – he certainly would not.

I enjoyed hearing his reflections where he put his past into perspective. His stories could leave you in stitches or tears. Often past pupils would turn up out of the blue or he would get an email from them.
And yes he always put his students first. He cared about them.

As for the tears well I felt them when he carried around a snapshot of his new mokopuna (born overseas) and one he hoped he would get to see. I will remember a man who could wear pink and pull if off, who loved stylish braces and cotton drill trousers. And most of all a man who could write a perfect sentence.

No reira haere atu ra e hoa. Haere ki to tipuna tuarangi.
Farewell my friend. Go forth and join your illustrious ancestors.

Cathy Strong, Massey University journalism school:
My friendship with Brian started sometime in the 1970s.  He frequently recalled our first encounter, with his characteristic grin.   It was at a journalism union meeting and, as he described, the door burst open and in came two skinny young women to announce they had just started a group called Media Women and the union would be unwise to ignore it.  That was me and the late Helen Paske.    Some union members started grumbling but Brian immediately jumped up and said, “It’s about time.”  And before anyone could object he added, “What can I do to help.”   This exemplified the social justice fabric he is famous for.  

He repeated this story last month when we met up at RNZ’s retirement do for Terry Brown.   Brian told me then he only had a short time left, but had dosed himself up on painkillers to be able to make the event.  He couldn’t stand, moving from chair to chair, but was keen to take the podium and share some funny stories from when he and Terry were young bucks in Dunedin.    At RNZ that night Brian didn’t publicise his illness, and made a determined effort to avoid bringing attention to himself.  He wanted to make sure the spotlight was on Terry.   And this highlights the characteristic that made Brian such a wonderful tutor and valuable friend.  He nurtured and protected people.  He built people up, never pulled them down.  He was an awesome educator and will be missed.

Annabel Schuler, director, School of Computing, Technology and Communications, Waiariki Institute of Technology
I met Brian when I attended my first JEANZ conference at Whitireia in 2002 not long after I was appointed to Waiariki.

I got off the Rotorua plane, bumped into Ruth Thomas who gathered me up and bundled me into a van from Whitireia which, unbeknowns to me, had come to pick us all up. At the wheel was this delightful man with twinkling eyes and a huge smile. He could spot a newbee a mile away and looked out for me that weekend while I found my feet in the new world of journalism education.

I found he knew my partner's family well from his Nelson days and that forged a link between Robert and I and himself. Brian was one of life's "real" people. What you saw is what you got....rest well my friend.

Grant Hannis, head of journalism, Massey University
I knew Brian from 2003 and always found him a warm, friendly, caring gent. Yes, he had a strong personality, but he encased it in a beaming smile and gentle manner.

My fondest memory of him was at a Jeanz conference in Christchurch. I was in charge of organising the speakers and Brian was the first speaker up after lunch. Over lunch, I checked that he was ready to go. "Absolutely!" he exclaimed. "But I'll have to duck off straight afterwards to visit my mum." I wasn't quite expecting the last bit and could only manage a slightly puzzled "OK" in reply. Sure enough, Brian gave his presentation and then immediately announced to the audience, "I have to go now to visit my mum" and walked out the door! Brian always had his priorities right.

I am delighted that Jeanz was able to host Brian and his wife, Rose, as the guests of honour at the Jeanz conference dinner in 2007, in recognition of his many years' service to journalism education. In what turned out to be the twilight of his life, Jeanz was able to show Brian just what he meant to us all. There was a great turnout at Brian's funeral - a testament to the impact he had on so many lives. He will not be forgotten.